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Covid-19 hits the disabled hardest

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Tarisai Machakaire

SENIOR STAFF WRITER

machakairet@dailynews.co.zw

PEOPLE with disabilities have been ranked the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 era as their monthly incomes have shrunk by 50 percent, putting them much lower than the poverty datum line, the United Nations has said.

This comes as the government has been struggling to fulfil its promise to provide vulnerable families with promised social safety nets, including cash transfers which have not been rolled out.

 According to recent rapid assessment conducted by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), income per month for persons with disabilities shrunk by 50 percent from $2 160 (US$43) per month pre-Covid-19 to $1 080 (US$13) per month during the lockdown period.

“This is against a poverty datum line of $17 957 (US$219) per month for a family of five. The rapid assessment on the impact of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe shows that persons with disabilities experience many challenges brought about and worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related lockdown and containment measures,” Unesco said, adding:

“The assessment found out that due to lockdown regulations, the livelihoods of persons with disabilities have been negatively affected resulting in other social ills such as anxiety and increase in gender-based violence mainly faced by women and girls with disabilities.”

Lawyers with Disabilities Association Zimbabwe secretary, Abraham Mateta, urged the government to prioritise the needs of persons with disabilities during this period since most of them generated their income from informal jobs.

“The major challenge is that there is little work to no work at all. I think responsible authorities must consider cushioning persons with disabilities with some money to buy food because most of them do not have food since they survived on vending and begging.

“If you are observant, you will realise that those who beg have started to defy the lockdown and come into the streets again but even there, they have little assistance because the generality of Zimbabweans have nothing,” said Mateta.

Deaf Zimbabwe Trust spokesperson Tinotenda Chikunya said the government had neglected their needs, making it difficult for their members to access important services.

“Persons with disability mostly rely on informal trading as a way to make a living. They were not economically ready for the protracted lockdown given their reliance on informal trading. Lack of a steady income has made them vulnerable to different forms of abuse due to social ills that they may resort to in order to put food on the table,” Chikunya said.

“Masks have made communication less effective for the deaf as they communicate through signs and facial expressions. Masks cover up facial expressions therefore transparent masks or face shields are better for people who are Deaf to ensure effective communication.”

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